National Day for Britain, Lisbon, Portugal.28 June 1998
NVA were commissioned by the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office to create and produce the National Day for Britain at Expo 98 in Lisbon, Portugal. The scale of this commission represented a step change for the company and was challenging on all levels: creative, administrative and technical.
We were operating on a 5km site employing 7,000 people, where English was not the first language. The team took up the challenges and successfully produced four major site-specific productions with only one night get-in and no onsite location rehearsals for any of the elements.
We employed over 130 British artists to work with hundreds of Portuguese performers and volunteers to create a vivid and provocative statement, celebrating the ancient and profoundly Celtic roots within both cultures.
The events included a Royal Gala Performance featuring Julie Christie, Craig Armstrong and Gavin Bryars accompanied by a new film work by Scottish visual artists Dalziel and Scullion. Prince Charles hated all of it! Bruce Gilchrist recorded the sounds of plants being tortured, the Dragon Ladies from London did a rabidly burlesque show, and a massive pagan fire ritual set 15 metre high straw giants on fire accompanied by 30 raucous British and Portuguese drummers and 50 wild dancers. For the finale, a bunch of spangled marines invaded the stage for the best of British Club Culture and a near riot ensued. Surprisingly the government got really good press for being so bold and unhindered in their choice of contemporary cultural commissioning.